Long-lost Jane Austen family photo album discovered on eBay

A long-lost photo album containing extremely rare pictures of Jane Austen’s family has surfaced on eBay, where it was bought for $1,000.

Karen Ievers bought the Victorian photo album expecting it to be full of pictures of 19th-century aristocrats, according to SWNS. Instead, she got a fascinating glimpse into the family of the famous novelist.

The writer of “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” and “Mansfield Park,” Austen is an important figure in English literature. The novelist, who died in 1817 at the age of 41, does not feature in the photo album, although her nieces and nephews appear in it.

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The hardbacked tome was compiled by Lord George Augusta Hill, an aristocrat who married two of the novelist’s nieces. Cassandra and Louisa were the daughters of Austen’s older brother Edward.

This picture shows Austen's great-niece Norah Mary Elizabeth Ward shortly after her wedding in April 1859. (SWNS)

This picture shows Austen's great-niece Norah Mary Elizabeth Ward shortly after her wedding in April 1859. (SWNS)

The album, which was advertised as belonging to Lord George Hill of Hillsborough Castle, was offered for $2,800 on eBay. However, Ievers got the album with a bid of $1,000.

"I bought it thinking it would be an interesting project because it was old and related to Ireland and that was it. I – and neither did the seller, I believe – knew of its significance,” she told SWNS. Ievers, who lives in Ireland, said she purchased the item from a seller in the U.S.

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Austen's family is said to have been a strong influence on her writing.

One of the fascinating pictures from Jane Austen's family's photo album. This one shows the Rev. Charles Bridges Knight with two women.

One of the fascinating pictures from Jane Austen's family's photo album. This one shows the Rev. Charles Bridges Knight with two women. (SWNS)

Ievers contacted Dr. Sophia Hillan, author of “May, Lou & Cass: Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland,” who uncovered the family link to Lord George Hill.

"When Karen shared some of the photos with me, I could hardly believe it," Hillan told SWNS. "Her nieces were very important to Jane Austen, which gives this album a special significance.

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Two rare envelopes addressed by the 19th-century British novelist and poet Charlotte Bronte were sold in the U.K. last year. Addressed to Bronte’s best friend and confidante Ellen Nussey, the envelopes were auctioned for $10,440, the BBC reports.

This picture from the family photo album shows Georgina Prettyman, nee Knight, Jane Austen's great niece.

This picture from the family photo album shows Georgina Prettyman, nee Knight, Jane Austen's great niece. (SWNS)

Other rare historical artifacts have turned up in unusual places.  A grainy 19th-century photo purchased for $10 at a North Carolina flea market in 2011, for example, turned out to be an extremely rare photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett.

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In 2016 a bookstore in Tasmania, Australia, unearthed an extremely rare journal from the Napoleonic wars that had been hidden in storage for decades.

Correction: The Georgina Prettyman photo was previously incorrectly captioned as Fanny Knight.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers